When “No Time to Die” hits theaters on Oct. 8 — a full year and a half after its original pre-pandemic release date — it will be the first movie in James Bond’s nearly 60-year history to feature a female 007, played by “Captain Marvel” breakout Lashana Lynch.
The British Jamaican actor plays Nomi, a new agent who enters the service shortly after Bond (Daniel Craig, starring in his fifth and final outing) retires, and inherits his legendary code number. “Nomi is a fine example of your modern-day woman who doesn’t take anything lying down and who gives everyone and anyone a run for their money,” Lynch said by phone from London. “Mentally, physically, energetically and spiritually, she has everything covered so that whatever questions you had about women and this franchise are shot down completely.”
With the role, Lynch becomes just the fifth Black actress to have a major role in a Bond film across 25 movies (Gloria Hendry, Grace Jones, Halle Berry and Naomie Harris round out the list).
“They were fantastic,” said Lynch of her predecessors. “When Halle Berry was in it, when Naomie was in it — who’s now a friend so I appreciate her even more — it just meant that I could relate to this very quintessentially English franchise and actually relate it to my life. I didn’t need to be a fighter or know how to handle a gun or anything like that to be able to relate to these women. They just felt like members of my family onscreen.”
Lynch’s casting announcement was met with outrage from misogynistic and racist trolls who, even in 2021, can’t imagine the mantle of 007 being held by anyone but a white man. “I don’t have anything to say to the trolls apart from it’s none of my business what you think, you have the freedom to live in your truth just like I have the freedom to live in mine,” she said.
As for the young Black women who will get to see themselves represented for perhaps the first time, Lynch empathizes. “We [Black women] know how it feels to be mis- and under-represented and we know how it feels to yearn for someone, anyone in the world to speak our truth for us when we feel like we don’t have a voice. And I’m hoping that my career and my choice in roles and me just being me, authentically, is shining a light on our power.”
“No Time to Die” comes six years after 2015’s “Spectre,” nearly the longest gap between Bond films. (The longest stretch between franchise installments stands at six years and five months, the distance between 1989’s “License to Kill” and 1995’s “Goldeneye,” when the role passed from Timothy Dalton to Pierce Brosnan.) Details about its plot have been shrouded in secrecy since development began in 2016. And when asked what at all she can say about the highly awaited film, directed by “True Detective” helmer Cary Joji Fukunaga, Lynch is strategic.
“’No Time to Die’ feels very much like a few genres in one,” she said. “It’s kind of a feast for new cinema-goers who love classic cinema but love a throw forward so you’re keeping it fresh whilst respecting the classics. You’re given the drama, the romance, the action. ... You have the explosions, the intimate moments, the tension.
“I know that every Bond film has given loads of that in different ways, but I feel like this one is really special in the way that they cultivated and carved out an area of its own. I think it’s probably going to be one of the best Bond movies, and I’m not just saying that because I’m in it,” she said.
Lynch’s participation in the film was announced fresh on the heels of the release of 2019’s “Captain Marvel,” in which she had a small but memorable role as Maria Rambeau, a fighter pilot and single mother (and best friend of the titular heroine). So joining another highly anticipated, highly secretive franchise wasn’t at all difficult, she says. “I’m really, really good at keeping secrets. Literally a lot of people that I know find out about what I’m doing in the press because I’m like, ‘Well, it wasn’t no one’s business but mine and the production, so here you go!’ ”
While it’s unclear whether Lynch’s character will return in future “Captain Marvel” projects, her daughter Monica was a fixture in this summer’s “WandaVision,” the first of Marvel Studios’ MCU spinoff series (and she’ll return in “Captain Marvel” sequel “The Marvels,” due next year). “I watched ‘WandaVision’ and absolutely loved it,” said Lynch. “And I’m so glad they chose Teyonah Parris to play my daughter because she’s wonderful and a lovely human being.”
As to whether a Maria-Monica reunion could be in the works, Lynch said, “You’ll have to ask Kevin Feige that. In fact, I should ask Kevin Feige that,” she said with a laugh. “But you never know. Weirder things have happened in the franchise. I had a wonderful time on the first one and it would be great to have a wonderful time on another one.”
Up next, Lynch will take on the role of Miss Honey in Netflix’s “Matilda” musical, scheduled for release in 2022. “I’ve been a fan of the book and the film all my life,” she said. “As early as I could read, I read that. And it’s a real honor to be playing someone that was like the world’s perfect teacher. We’ve really honed in on the reason why she is the way she is and brought out different truths in her that are really, really cool and interesting to play.”
The film, currently in production, also stars Emma Thompson as Miss Trunchbull. “Emma Thompson is just a force,” said Lynch. “She’s an absolute force that is bringing something different to Trunchbull that I didn’t even expect to come in. Her take is magical and really dark. I feel really grateful to act opposite her because I’m learning a ton. ... And the kids are keeping me alive — it’s the perfect thing to do post-lockdown. I’m having a ball.”